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18 States Sue Trump Administration over Family Separations at Border; Trump to Award Medal of Honor to World War II Hero; Trump Posthumously Awards Medal of Honor to World War II Hero. Aired 3:30-4p ET

Aired June 26, 2018 - 15:30   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


[15:30:00] BROOKE BALDWIN, CNN ANCHOR: But they say only three have been able to speak with their kids since they were taken away.

Some of them are sharing their heartbreaking stories in a news conference. And we want to share a few of those with you now.

Mario, who says he was shocked to learn he had been arrested when he arrived from Honduras. And he says he has been calling the number provided by the government to contact his daughter but no one is answering.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED IMMIGRANT: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Marian is one of the few parents who has spoken with her child. Her 4-year-old son is at a shelter in New York while she waits for immigration proceedings in Texas. She says she didn't have a chance to explain what was happening because she was still asleep when they took her son at dawn.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED IMMIGRANT: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

(END VIDEO CLIP)

BALDWIN: Christian's 5-year-old daughter was taken to Chicago. He says she tried to comfort him when they talked, saying she wouldn't be mad at him, and also told him as long as they could be together she would be happy.

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UNIDENTIFIED IMMIGRANT: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

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BALDWIN: Iris, like Christian, came from Honduras. She said it was a 15-day journey. And when she arrived on her son's sixth birthday, she was told she would be arrested. She says when she asked if they could be deported together, she was told no. Now her son is in Arizona but she doesn't know exactly where he is and she has not spoken with him.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED IMMIGRANT: (SPEAKING FOREIGN LANGUAGE)

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BALDWIN: Again, these are all parents who have had criminal charges against them dropped. They were released with ankle monitors while they wait for their immigration proceedings.

We should also mention, we've learned that Vice President Mike Pence will meet with the president of El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala on Thursday to address this immigration crisis. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen will join him.

Any moment now, we're expecting Attorney General Jeff Sessions to speak out about the Supreme Court decision to uphold the administration's travel ban. This, after 25 protesters were arrested outside of his event.

Also ahead, we're going to take you to the White House where President Trump will award posthumously the Medal of Honor to a World War II hero. His friends and family spent more than 20 years lobbying for this moment. So we'll watch as his widow accepts the honor.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK)

[15:38:00] BALDWIN: Let's come back in on live pictures at the White House. People are seated, waiting for this big moment here. Any minute now, the president will be honoring the Medal of Honor to the widow of one of the most decorated soldiers who served in World War II. The posthumous award is for Garlin Murl Conner. He took part in 10 military campaigns during the war and was wounded seven times during combat, receiving three Purple Hearts, He is credited with fighting off a wave of 600 German soldiers and six tanks during a critical battle in France. He passed away 20 years ago. And his widow, Pauline, will accept the Medal of Honor for him today.

So let's go to our Pentagon correspondent, Barbara Starr, with more on this.

I know this is something that his friends have been waiting a number of years for.

BARBARA STARR, CNN PENTAGON CORRESPONDENT: They have, indeed. There's been a very significant effort to get this medal for him, for his widow who is accepting it today.

This is for a battle in 1945 against the Germans in France when he was serving in the Army. They were facing being overrun by German formations and Lieutenant Garlin Conner basically rammed through exploding trees and shrapnel, dove into a ditch in advance of his own lines to confront the Germans, unrolling telephone wire the whole way as trees are exploding around him, so he could communicate back to headquarters and direct allied artillery fire against the Germans. At one point, German formations, German troops came within five yards of where he was trying to hide in a shallow ditch. Credited, as you say, with stopping the German advance, stopping more than 600 German soldiers, saving countless American lives in this one crucial battle in World War II in France.

It's on a day like this when it's so important to pause and remember that these troops who have fought in World War II had none of the, you know, essential tools and weapons that so many troops, so many Americans take for granted our military has today. Brooke --

[15:40:07] BALDWIN: There we go.

STARR: -- I think the music, the president is entering the room.

BALDWIN: That's our signal.

Thanks, Barbara.

Let's watch.

ANNOUNCER: The president of the United States.

(MUSIC)

DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: Thank you very much.

PAUL HURLEY, CHIEF CHAPLAIN, U.S. ARMY: Let us pray. Almighty God, in this moment and in the company of those gathered here, we seek your presence in grace, as a nation, today we lift up, we honor, we give thanks for your strength and power reflected in the heroic acts of Lieutenant Conner. Let this man's heroic actions give our nation, our world courage and hope to always act in the face of danger and overwhelming forces that seek to destroy. Lord, help us, recall the gallant actions of this man, fill all who hear and remember with gratitude and resolve, to protect and continue the mission no matter the cost or dissent. We ask all this in your holy name. Amen.

TRUMP: Thank you very much. Thank you.

And thank you, Chaplain Hurley.

We're honored to be joined today by members of Congress, military leaders, distinguished guests.

I want to recognize deputy secretary of defense, Patrick Shanahan.

Where is Patrick? Please, stand up, Patrick. You're doing a great job.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: I have a four-star in here, John Kelly, a special guy.

Where's John?

Special man. (APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Secretary of the Army, Mark Esper. Army chief of staff.

Thank you. Thank you, Mark.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: A very good negotiator. The general, Mark, I could see in his eyes when I talk about the cost of those bombs.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: He's good at throwing them, but he also good at pricing them. I see it.

Sergeant major of the Army, Daniel Daily.

Daniel, thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Thank you, Daniel.

Also want to thank Congress.

And we have some members here.

Buddy Carter? Buddy. Thank you, Buddy.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Martha McSally.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Great, Martha.

James Comber (ph).

Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Thank you for being here. Thank you very much. Special day.

Though he could not be here this afternoon, I want to thank majority leader, Mitch McConnell, for his years of work to make this day very special. He worked hard. And he's working hard right now on a lot of other things. I will say he worked very hard. We thank Mitch.

Thank you.

And to all of the guests who traveled from two of my favorite states and places, Kentucky and Tennessee. They like me in Kentucky and Tennessee. (APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Welcome to the White House. It's great. Two great places.

Today we tell the story of an incredible hero who defended our nation in World War II, First Lieutenant Garlin Murl Conner. Although he died 20 years ago today, he takes his rightful place in the eternal chronicle of American valor. And that, as you know, is what this is. This is the great, great men and women, it's American valor.

We're thrilled to be joined by his amazing wife, Pauline.

Pauline, thank you.

Don't get up. Save it for later.

(APPLAUSE)

[15:44:48] TRUMP: I got to know her a little bit ago in the Oval Office and she's a very special woman with a special family. She's 89 years old today and she's going strong. I have to say, going strong.

Keep it going.

She hoped and prayed she would live to see this day. Pauline is truly a wonderful and incredible person.

And it's my privilege to be with you today as we award your late husband our nation's highest military honor.

For today's Congressional Medal of Honor presentation, we're also joined by Pauline and Murl's son, Paul.

Thank you, Paul.

Their grandchildren, Rachel (ph), Cara (ph), Kaylin (ph), and Brett (ph), who serves in the Navy.

Stand up, please.

Submariner. He's a submariner.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Submariner.

Their grandchildren, Ethan, Idan (ph), Ana Bell (ph) and Bela Rose (ph).

Thank you very much. Thank you for being here. It's great. They have great genes.

Lieutenant Conner must be looking down from heaven, proud of this incredible honor, but even prouder of the legacy that lives on in each of you. So true. Finally, to the two previous Medal of Honor recipients who have joined

us today, we salute your service and we thank you on behalf of one very large, very powerful, and very grateful nation.

Thank you.

Where are you sitting or standing? Please. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: Thank you very much for being here. It's a great honor.

The American hero we honor today came from a farm near Albany, Kentucky. Murl was one of 11 children. He grew up during the Great Depression and dropped out of school after the eighth grade to help provide for his family, a wonderful family. But they weren't rolling in cash, right. But they were wonderful.

In March of 1941, Murl enlisted in the Army and joined the Third Infantry Division. For 28 months straight, he fought on the front lines in 10 campaigns. He was wounded seven times. But he couldn't stop. He loved it and he loved our country. On the shores of Sicily, the beaches of Anzio and the snow-covered mountains of France, he fought with everything he had to defeat the Nazi menace.

In January of 1945, as the final days of the Battle of the Bulge -- well-known fight -- General, that was a tough one, right. Was that a tough one? They -- I know you weren't there, but that was --

(LAUGHTER)

That was a -- I hope you weren't there. Otherwise -

(LAUGHTER)

He says Kelly was there.

(LAUGHTER)

But that was a rough one. They study that one.

The U.S. Third Infantry Division was engaged in a fierce battle with the Nazis in northern France. At the time, Lieutenant Conner was in a field hospital being treated for a painful hip wound, one of many, and was scheduled to be sent back home. He was wounded so often, so much, but he didn't want to go home. He snuck out of the hospital and he made his way back to his unit. His doctors, his nurses, were not happy. Lieutenant Conner wasn't done fighting yet. In fact, it wasn't even close.

Soon after he arrived, he saw that it was impossible to tell the strength and position of the Germans. He volunteered to go to the front line and observe the enemy and to help direct fire. In order to communicate with the command post, he took a telephone and hundreds of yards of telephone wire. That was a long time ago, before we had what we have today, called a cell phone. He ran 400 yards, dodging shrapnel, bullets, shells everywhere, artillery trying to hit him, they saw him, couldn't get him, he was going every different way, looked like an NFL star, all the while laying telephone wire wherever he went. When he reached the edge of the forest, he raced 30 yards in front of the American line. Murl laid in a shadowed ditch and he laid down in this hole, this shallow ditch where they could still see him. It was only one foot deep. In front of the lone American soldier were six German tanks and hundreds of German soldiers. As bullets flew around him, Lieutenant Conner directed artillery fire, each time successfully decimating the enemy. They knew he was there and they couldn't get him. At one point, a German soldier came within five yards of Lieutenant Conner before being shot and killed.

[15:50:27] For three hours, the bloody battle raged on. In the last attacks, swarms of German soldiers rushed forward. When they were nearly on top of Lieutenant Conner, he ordered fire on his own position, exactly where he was, courageously, choosing to face death in order to save his battalion and achieve victory for freedom. And those people that were with him, many of them now gone, said it was the single bravest act they've ever seen. He had shells dropped right on him. "Aim at me," he said. "Aim at me." Well, they missed him by feet. But he kept calling in more rounds, more rounds until the blanket of fire broke the German advance and the enemy retreated, saving so many American lives.

Lieutenant Conner's courageous actions killed roughly 50 German soldiers, injured 100 more, and saved so many American lives. They don't even have the count. Somehow, Lieutenant Conner survived the attack. Less than four months later, the Nazis surrendered. And that was a big, big day.

Soon after, Murl came home. His town organized a parade to celebrate his heroic deeds. One of the speakers was the legendary World War I hero, Sergeant York. You know all about Sergeant York? All of my generals know about Sergeant York, right?

It was at this time that Pauline first caught a glimpse of her future husband.

Right, Pauline? I don't think you were impressed either, were you, Pauline?

She said, no, I wasn't.

(LAUGHTER)

As she put it, "I was expecting a giant of a man." Because he was a big hero already. And she hadn't met him.

But they were giving a parade. I was asking her about it. And she expected this big powerful guy. But when she saw Murl, he was 5'6" tops, 120 pounds. And she told her mother, that little guy could not have done all of the things that they said he's done. It couldn't be possible, right.

She soon saw for herself the extraordinary courage and devotion that burned like a righteous fire in his soul. It is all about the soul. Murl embodied the pure patriotic love that builds and sustains a nation.

Just a few months later, Murl and Pauline were husband and wife. Together they lived, loved and thrived through 53 years of an incredibly great marriage.

Was it good or great, Pauline? Huh?

It was great. That's good.

Oh, boy, I'm glad she said that.

(LAUGHTER)

We might have had to cancel the rest. That would have been terrible.

(LAUGHTER)

She said it was great.

Today, we pay tribute to this Kentucky farm boy who stared down evil with the strength of a warrior and the heart of a true hero. Lloyd Ramsey, Murl's commanding officer, described him this way: "I've never seen a man with as much courage and ability as he had. I usually don't brag on my officers, but this is one officer nobody could brag enough about and do him justice. He was a real soldier."

That is some quote from his commander.

Lieutenant Garlin Murl Conner was, indeed, a giant. In his daring and devotion and his duty, he was larger than life. And that he was. He will never, ever be forgotten. We will never forget his story. And we will always be grateful to God for giving us heroes like Murl.

And you two gentlemen. We didn't forget you. Two great gentlemen.

[15:55:01] And by the way, all of these great soldiers and truly brave warriors that do such an incredible job protecting the people of this country, and we mean that 100 percent.

So everybody in uniform here today, we thank you.

I would like to now ask Pauline to come and accept the Congressional Medal of Honor for her husband. And for the military aide to read the citation.

Thank you. Thank you very much.

(APPLAUSE)

TRUMP: (INAUDIBLE) -- voted for Trump.

(LAUGHTER)

UNIDENTIFIED MILITARY AIDE: The president of the United States of America, authorized by act of Congress, March 3rd, 1863, has awarded in the name of Congress the Medal of Honor to First Lieutenant Garlin Murl Conner, United States Army, for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of his life above and beyond the call of duty.

First Lieutenant Garlin M. Conner distinguished him by acts of gallantry and intrepidity while service with Company K, Third Battalion, Seventh Infantry Regiment, Third Infantry Division. On the morning of January 24th, 1945, near the town of Houssen, France, German forces ferociously counter attacked the front left flank of the Seventh Infantry Regiment with 600 infantry troops, six Mark Six tanks and tank destroyers. Lieutenant Conner, having recently returned to his unit after recovering from a wound received in an earlier battle, was working as the intelligence officer in the Third Battalion command post at the time of the attack. Understanding the devastating effect that the advancing enemy armor could have on the battalion, Lieutenant Conner immediately volunteered to run straight into the heart of the enemy assault to get to a position from which he could direct friendly artillery on the advancing enemy forces. With complete disregard for his own safety, Lieutenant Conner maneuvered 400 yards through the enemy artillery fire that destroyed trees in his path and rained shrapnel around him, while unrolling telephone wire needed to communicate with the command post.

Upon reaching the battalion's front line, he continued to move forward under the enemy assault to a position 30 yards in front of the defending United States forces where he plunged into a shallow ditch that provided minimal protection from the advancing enemy's heavy machine gun and small-arms fire. With rounds impacting all around him, Lieutenant Conner calmly directed multiple fire munitions, adjusting round after round of artillery from his prone position until the enemy was forced to halt its advance and seek cover behind a nearby dike.

For three hours, Lieutenant Conner remained in his compromised position enduring the repeated onslaught of German infantry, which at one point advanced to within five yards of his position. As German infantry regrouped and began to mass in an overwhelming assault, Lieutenant Conner ordered friendly artillery to concentrate on his own position, having resolved to die if necessary to destroy the enemy advance. Ignoring the friendly artillery shells blanketing his position and exploding mere feet from him, Lieutenant Conner continued to direct artillery fire on the enemy assault swarming around him until the German attack was finally broken.

By his heroism and disregard for his own life, Lieutenant Conner stopped the enemy advance. The artillery he expertly directed while under constant enemy fire, killed approximately 50 German soldiers and wounded an estimated 100 more, preventing what would have undoubtedly been heavy friendly casualties. His actions are in keeping with the highest traditions of military service and reflect great credit upon himself, the Third Infantry Division, and the United States Army.

(APPLAUSE)

HURLEY: Let us pray.

Almighty God, I ask that these moments here together and the heroic acts of lieutenant of this -- Lieutenant Garlin Conner become for us a lifetime of strength.